This Is How To Tell If Your Cat Is Aging Well

Just like with human baby boomers, there's a feline aging tsunami just around the corner.
fStop Images - Vladimir Godnik via Getty Images

It takes a special kind of person to invest deep love in a pet, knowing that with a cat or dog’s shorter life span, we likely will be saying goodbye to them in relatively short order. The loss of a furry family member cuts like a knife and, let’s face it, while there is tons of research going on about human longevity, pets are pretty much second-class citizens when it comes to aging studies, says The Dodo.

It’s why we got seriously excited about two studies recently published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery here and here, that advise pet companions about the signs indicating that their kitty is aging gracefully, as it were.

The lifespan of indoor cats is 12 to 15 years, and since about 20 percent of the cats in the U.S. are now 11 years or older, it would seem we have a feline baby boomer tsunami coming right around the corner, according to the nonprofit International Cat Care.

While cats’ longevity has increased ― they were only living an average of seven years in the early 1980s and just over nine years in 1995, it behooves humans to recognize the signs of healthy aging. According to the Journal report, this includes showing none of the so-called DISHA pattern ― disorientation, interaction changes, sleep/wake disturbances, house-soiling and changes in activity.

The researchers say that your cat should retain its ability to play and jump through aging, even if it’s a bit diminished, and should maintain a healthy weight with no major changes to muscle mass or body fat.

One other thing that might help you prolong your cat’s life is to keep him inside. A British study last year found that while the specific causes of death depended on the age of the cat, trauma was the overall leading cause (12.2 percent of all deceased cats), with 60 percent of those deaths attributed to being hit by a car. For older cats, kidney disease and tumors were also common, whereas young cats were more likely to succumb to viral infections and respiratory disorders.

Cats who were neutered also lived longer (safe sex?) as did those who were seen frequently by a veterinarian (good health insurance?). One of the controversies to come out of this earlier study was the number of older cats euthanized for behavioral issues. Would we euthanize our spouse if he or she became disagreeable, asked one writer.

Which of course led to the broader and ever-present question of how we see pets: Are they property that belong to us? Score a big one for the furry set when the Oregon Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that they are not.

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